Homemade vanilla extract is worlds apart from the generic imitation vanilla typically found at big box stores (Thomson, 2017). Mmm…vanilla. Its sweet, perfumed aroma and flavor are known and loved around the world. No wonder it has been celebrated and used for hundreds of years, first cultivated by the Totonac Indians in eastern Mexico. While vanilla gained a foothold as a flavoring for cacao drinks, it quickly became evident that it was a flavor powerhouse unto itself, and has been used ever since to add its decadent flavor to cakes, confections, syrups, puddings, ice cream, and even perfumes.
The vanilla bean is the fruit of Vanilla planifolia, an evergreen vining orchid native to Mexico and grown in the tropical regions of countries such as Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, India, and Uganda. Vanilla has aerial roots that cling to trees, thick, fleshy leaves, and lovely white, cream, or yellow trumpet-shaped blossoms that bloom only for one day (Menon & Nayeem, 2013).
In its native Mexico, vanilla was pollinated by an indigenous bee, but when vanilla began to be grown in other regions of the world without its natural pollinator, hand pollination became necessary to produce the bean. This, along with the lengthy curing process necessary to produce the oily, pliable, dark brown to black bean, explains why vanilla beans are so very expensive (Fortini, 2005). But worth it.
Homemade vanilla extract adds its perfumed, complex flavor to hot and cold drinks, baked goods, confections, smoothies, yogurt, and more. It is also a lovely (and easy) gift to make for the chefs or foodies in your life. They will appreciate its high quality and excellent flavor. Yield: 8 ounces. 5 vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) beans
Homemade Vanilla Extract
1 cup vodka, brandy, bourbon, or rum (80 proof, or 40% alcohol)
8-ounce glass bottle or jar
Homemade vanilla extract adds its perfumed, complex flavor to hot and cold drinks, baked goods, confections, smoothies, yogurt, and more. It is also a lovely (and easy) gift to make for the chefs or foodies in your life. They will appreciate its high quality and excellent flavor. Yield: 8 ounces.
5 vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) beans
Vanilla has an abundance of uses in cooking, perfumes, and bath botanicals. Here are some vanilla-related recipes to get you started.
Fortini, A. (2005). The white stuff [Online article]. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2005/08/the_white_stuff.html
Menon, S. & Nayeem, N. (2013). Vanilla planifolia: A review of a plant commonly used as flavouring agent [Online journal article]. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research (20)2, 225-228.
Thomson, Julie, R. (2017). So that’s what imitation vanilla extract is made of [Online blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-is-imitation-vanilla_n_58e4de8de4b0d0b7e1666da3